Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. [emphasis added] Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Obviously in Revelation another author of scripture concluded that the Roman soldier was a sign of illegitimate power. Paul's sketching out of the reason to yield to legitimate authority has sat uneasily with the critique of imperial power in the Apocalypse and Christians have had to live with this tension ever since.
Or ... perhaps we can float an idea, that the observation Paul shared can't be overstated. Paul wrote that those who rule bear the sword. That is a point so obvious its significance can be overlooked. In the polemics in our election cycle it's not hard to find people who say that someone's a fascist or that someone's a socialist. The dystopian literary trope of the police state is ever popular but it can seem as though there's something we can forget when we warn about the possibility of a police state.
Every state is, by definition, a police state. The power of the state is always the power of the sword.
The debates we have are ultimately about how nice we want the cops to be and when it is or isn't appropriate for cops to kill. If those on the right historically have this nasty habit of downplaying the atrocities states have perpetrated because they don't want to deny that the state has what is sometimes called a monopoly on legitimate violence, those on the left can seem to forget that the power of the state is always the power of violence. Perhaps we could say the innovation of the Enlightenment was not the rejection of the despot but the proposal that the despot be ... enlightened.
There will never be a classless society. Deuteronomy 15 mentions that there should be no poor if Israel obeyed ... but then we famously get "the poor you shall always have with you" in verse 11 where God commands Israel to always be willing to help the poor. so Ellul was right to state flatly that without attempting to make things too mysterious there will never be a material solution to the plight of the working class. He described propaganda as a psychological solution, an opiate that the state or private business can deploy to mollify the working class their conditions but that there was never going to be a collective ownership of the means of production. All we will see is that the means of production are owned by private persons or by party functionaries, never by the collective as a whole.
There will always be a ruling class as long as there are humans and anyone who tells you otherwise is a worse liar than those who promote lies vocationally. The sword may take different forms, and we may feel that we're more equitable than people from millennia ago because the weapon can take the form of the control and use of information access in an information economy but that is still, in its way, the sue of the sword.
And we all know perfectly well that the role of the sword has been taken up by the gun and that our debates about who the cops kill and why needs to keep happening. And we need to remind ourselves, as some are clearly doing, that we can never forget that the power to enforce the law invariably leads to the power to kill.